By Charlotte O’SullivanFeatures correspondent
The first teaser for the film adaptation of the hit stage musical dropped during the Super Bowl – and some film fans aren’t impressed. “CGI sludge” is just one of the criticisms – but are the haters right?
Of all the movie and TV trailers released during this weekend’s Super Bowl game, none were more discussed than the first teaser for the upcoming two-part film adaptation of the Wizard of Oz-inspired musical “Wicked.” According to certain parts of the internet, the result, to use the name of the show’s most popular song, is not a flop, but a flop.
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Poor lighting and coloring; generic special effects. According to the haters, this excerpt from Jon M Chu’s version of the subversive Broadway hit (which is essentially an origin story for the Wicked Witch from the classic 1939 film) looks like a tacky Harry Potter spin-off. Or a Saturday Night Live sketch. Either that or one of the much-hated offerings from the new phase of Marvel Cinematic Universe films – the Wicked trailer it is visually flat that even its charismatic stars Cynthia Erivo and Ariana Grande look like half-baked pancakes. One Reddit user summed up his dismay: “This just looks like a pretty boring retelling with the focus taken away in favor of cheesy action CGI shots.” One online critic lamented what they described as this “CGI sludge.”
In the trailer, Emerald City’s towers look like they were taken from a catalog of darkly fantastical houses and inserted
Any trailer with so many nods to the original Oz would always get a kick out of it. The flying monkeys here don’t scare us. And Emerald City’s towers look like they were taken from a catalog of darkly fantastical houses.
The trailer doesn’t just fail when compared to epics from the distant past. Put “Wicked” next to the blockbusters of the last few years and if the trailer is to be believed, it’s still too short. Dune (like Wicked, split in two and produced for about the same amount of money) was surreal and haunting. The same applies to Oppenheimer. Meanwhile, Barbie’s Greta Gerwig gave us a spectacle that combined elaborate, colorful sets and effects with the most imaginative and slyly funny low-fi details.
On the other hand, we should give Universal some credit. The beauty of Holzman and Schwartz’s musical is that, beyond the catchy songs and dark storylines, it completely reimagines the events of the 1939 classic, creating a whole new world of possibilities for the green-skinned witch Elphaba (Erivo). and her on-off girlfriend, the stereotypical It-girl Glinda. Those new to the material will probably assume that Michelle Yeoh’s character, university head Madame Morrible, is some sort of inspirational, Dumbledore-esque mentor who wants the young women to reach their potential . Yeoh’s line in the trailer seems a little robotic: “Once you learn to use your emotions, the sky’s the limit.” But if you know what Morrible is up to, it works.
Likewise, those who don’t know Jonathan Bailey, who plays Elphaba’s lover Fiyero, might consider him unworthy of the mighty Erivo. But Bailey (who was insanely seductive as the Viscount in “Bridgerton” and distractingly excellent as a hacker in “Doctor Who”) is an inspired choice. He and Erivo are among the smart actors who know exactly how to subvert expectations, make us sob, and/or generate sexual heat. If anyone can make Elphaba and Fiyero sing, it’s these two.
Speaking of which: In the trailer it almost seems embarrassing that the film we’ll see in November is a musical. As in the trailers for “Wonka” and the current musical film “Mean Girls,” trilling is kept to a minimum. But the tiny riff at the end (which gives us a touch of Defying Gravity like we’ve never heard before) allows Erivo to let off steam. Her voice is scary good and this movie still has the potential to be nasty.
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